I like accordions! They are so beautifully simply to look at, and accordions are the key music instruments in the wonderful spring festivals around Innsbruck. Therefore, I gladly attended one of the concert evenings at the World Music Festival and it turned out that accordions are far more versatile than I thought.

The 13th World Music Festival took place from 30 May to 2 June 2019 in Innsbruck — the “World Music” here does not refer to ethnic or indigenous music and the festival is actually dedicated to the art of accordion and harmonica, although world music, by its common definition, is one of the competition categories.

Congress Innsbruck: The Main Venue

The World Music Festival has always been held in Innsbruck – the first was in 1983. The venues included the Congress, Messe and Olympiaworld. However, the organizer is the Deutscher Harmonika-Verband e. V., Germany’s second largest amateur music association in the instrumental field.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Kristall Foyer and Casino Foyer, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

The Congress Innsbruck sits between the Imperial Gardens (Hofgarten) and the Inn river. The site was part of the royal quarter from the 16th through 19th centuries. Initially an entertainment hall was built here by Archduke Ferdinand II, and later it was converted into one of the largest European theatres in the 17th century.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Dazzling lights in the foyer, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

The current congress hall was completed in 1973 and its design integrated the WWII ruin of the previous building, Dogana. Various events have taken place here. As I crawled through the City Archives online, I found this sensational poster of ABBA‘s live concert here in 1974!

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Left: unusual ceiling lights by the entrance of the Saal Tirol (Hall Tirol) / Right: one of the trophies on display © Ichia Wu

The Music Competitions

The competitions were spread over two days across various saloons. Simply from the complex divisions, you could tell that this was one massive event. The categories were divided by:

  • music instruments: accordion, Styrian harmonica, harmonica and mixed (combined with world music)
  • number of performers
  • age: adults, youth and children
  • level of proficiency: from elementary to professional

A Styrian harmonica is not a harmonica but a button accordion! The use of Styrian harmonicas is very prominent in our region in Tyrol and Bavaria.

The Accordion and Harmonica Exhibitions

In addition to the competitions, there were exhibitions on the ground floor and the first floor, presented by the German Harmonica Museum (of Trossingen) and companies dealing in manufacture, restoration, publishing and various services.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Exhibition presented by the German Harmonica Museum, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

A button accordion and three piano accordions © Ichia Wu

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Harmonicas in the exhibition, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

The Concerts

There were concerts throughout the day, and the ticket I had was for the second concert evening called “Evening of the Nations”. Interestingly, this ticket allowed access to more than one concert. In fact, four out of five concerts more or less happened at the same time during this evening! Decisions, decisions!

Saal Tirol (Hall Tirol)

The decision was made! I started with the 20:00 concert in Saal Tirol (Hall Tirol) which has the biggest seating capacity in the Congress Innsbruck. I was most curious about how accordions collaborate with other instruments. Ideally with a small group, so that it would be easier for my untrained ears to follow. This concert brought together an accordionist and a string quartet, which was exactly what I was looking for.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Saal Tirol, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

The leading musician was the Lithuanian accordionist Martynas Levickis, who won the 2010 Accordion World Championship (Coupe Mondiale) and the “Got Talent” TV show in his country. He and his ensemble entered the stage one by one playing music in a theatrical and somehow shadowy style, which was cool.

Accordion concert, Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Martynas Levickis & Mikroorkéstra Quartet, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

The playlist consisted of classics by Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach and Brahms as well as modern songs of regional character. The speed he played was of course very impressive, and so were the possibilities of commanding the bellows.

This musical instrument changes its shape so much while being played, which was also a treat visually.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

The Pigini Nova accordion is so sleek and stylish. I love it! It is more expensive than a car though! © Ichia Wu

Orangerie

After roughly an hour there was a break, so like everybody else I tried to catch up with the other concerts in the meantime. In the Orangerie, Slovenian accordionist Zoran Zorko was playing solo. The audience here merrily clapped along and the seating arrangement was more casual.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Orangerie, Congress Innsbruck © Ichia Wu

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Unlike Martynas Levickis, Zoran Zorko plays diatonic button accordions. © Ichia Wu

Saal Dogana

The concert in the Dogana Hall was more like a jolly party where people danced and sang to pop songs (while I was there). After two days of intense competitions, it was time to party after all! Orchester Hohnerklang and Erstes Kölner Akkordeon-Orchester 1935 e.V. were on stage and harmonicas played an important role in the band.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Saal Dogana © Ichia Wu

By area, the Dogana Hall is the largest room in the Congress Innsbruck and the arches on both sides are the remaining parts of the old Dogana.

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Orchester Hohnerklang & Erstes Kölner Akkordeon-Orchester 1935 e.V. © Ichia Wu

Congress Innsbruck World Music Festival © Ichia Wu

Saal Dogana © Ichia Wu

In 2022, the community and lovers of accordion and harmonica will again gather here. Until then, music continues to flow in Innsbruck. Stay tuned!